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Tuesday, February 13, 2024 - Day 20
Prior Legislative Updates for this Year

Senate Education Committee hears bills

The Senate Education and Youth Committee took up several measures this afternoon.

Most in the audience came to speak to SB 88, a bill the author, Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele, describes as requiring parental opt-in when issues pertaining to gender identity are addressed or discussed by any persons and organizations operating in loco parentis.  This definition would include public and private schools, summer camps, churches and synagogues, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth sports activities, etc.  The bill also requires public school systems adopt:

•   Policies for incorporating appropriate parental involvement when a student approaches school personnel with questions or concerns about the student's gender identity;

•   Policies regarding parental notification of any discussion of gender identity or gender transition initiated by school personnel;

•   Policies for when school personnel should refer students with gender identity or gender transition questions to a designated school administrator, school counselor, school social worker, or other professional for further discussion.

The chair of the Committee, Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, allowed half-a-dozen supporters of the bill to speak but refused to hear from opponents of the bill, which included evangelical Christian organizations like the Georgia Baptist Missionary Board.  They oppose the bill because of its inclusion of private schools.

The bill passed the Committee by a 6-3 vote.

Also on the agenda was SB 351, the so-called "Protecting Georgia's Children on Social Media Act of 2024" a 19-page bill that requires "character curriculum" to include instruction "methods of promoting responsible digital citizenship and the safe and appropriate use of technology, the internet, and social media."  The state Department of Education is charged with developing a model program, which must include, among other things:

•  the social, emotional, and physical effects of social media on users,
•  the negative effects of social media on the mental health of users, including, but not limited to, addiction,
•  the distribution of disinformation and misinformation on social media, and
•  how to maintain personal security and identify cyber-bullying, predatory behavior, and human trafficking on the internet and social media.

The bill also directs school systems to "prohibit and prevent students from accessing social media platforms through the use of computer equipment, communications services, or internet access that is operated, owned, leased, or otherwise provided by the local board of education, local school system, or public school, except when expressly authorized by a school administrator or teacher solely for appropriate educational purposes."  Such an effort must include "the use of software programs and other technologies reasonably designed and intended to block access to social media platforms."

"Social media platform" is defined as "an online forum that allows an account holder to create a profile, upload posts, view and listen to posts, and interact with other account holders and users."

School districts that fail to adopt a policy in compliance with the provisions of the bill risk state funding.

School boards are also required to adopt cyber-bullying policies.  The bill passed unanimously.

's own bill, SB 464 was also heard.  The bill provides financial assistance for eligible teachers to purchase school supplies online.  "Eligible teachers" are defined as a teacher who "has the primary responsibility of providing classroom instruction to students for not less than 60 percent of each school day on average, measured weekly."  The bill passed unanimously.  There is no funding provided in the bill to pay for the program.

Sen. Shawn Still, R-Norcross, took to the podium to describe changes to his bill, SB 147, which requires that QBE funding follow a child when a student transfers from one school district to another.  Originally, the bill mandated a percentage of equalization grants given a school also be transferred to the new enrolling public school.  The latest version of the bill removes the transfer of equalization grants.  Equalization grants are given to poorer school districts that that have a small property tax base to fund their schools.  The bill was heard but no vote taken.  Sen. Still insisted the bill is to help students in "failing school districts."

Two legislative special elections today
Special election were held today in House District 125 (Columbia and McDuffie counties) and in Senate District 30 (Carroll, Douglas, Haralson, and Paulding) to fill vacant seats.

In Senate District 30, it appears that former state Rep. Tim Bearden, R-Carrolton, will win.

The House election appears to be heading to a runoff between two Republicans, C.J. Pearson and Gary Richardson.  Pearson, 21 years old, is the executive director of Teens for Trump.  Richarsdson is a Columbia County Commissioner.  The runoff election will be March 12, the same day as the Georgia Presidential Primary.
House expected to vote on expansion of paid parental leave
The House of Representatives is expected to take up HB 1010 Thursday, a bill which doubles the amount of paid parental leave for state and school employees.  The bill increases paid leave from three weeks to six weeks upon a birth, adoption, or placement in foster care of a child.

Join your colleagues and fellow GAE members at our 2024 Day at the Capitol

Join your colleagues and friends at the 2024 GAE Day at the Capitol on Thursday, February 22.  Hear from and meet legislators who are influential in the adoption of education legislation and policy.  Click on the flyer below to register.
Next Legislative Update will be Thursday, February 15
The General Assembly will not meet on February 14
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